Jennifer Kupcho blitzed Blythefield Country Club on Thursday at the Meijer LPGA Classic for Simply Give, carding a bogey-free, 9-under 63 and a new career-best for the 25-year-old. She went out in 30 on the front nine, notching back-to-back birdies on holes 1 and 2, holes 4 and 5 and holes 8 and 9. As the wind picked up in the afternoon, Kupcho cooled only slightly, making birdie on No. 13 and an eagle on 14 – this week’s Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole – to fire a 33 on the back and hold the 18-hole lead.
“I hit a mistakenly really great shot on the first hole,” said Kupcho, who hit 10 of 13 fairways and 16 of 18 greens on Thursday. “Honestly, I thought I was going to miss the green but ended up great. Took advantage of that, and then sunk a longer putt on the second hole, and that really boosted my confidence, especially in this wind. I've been here the last couple of years and really been comfortable with this place. A lot of the holes are birdie holes, so I felt like I could go out and birdie every hole. I think that was the mindset starting every new hole, is doing that.”
This is Kupcho’s third appearance in the Meijer LPGA Classic – her best finish in the event was a tie for 10th in 2021 – and the fourth time she’s held the 18-hole lead in her career. The last time she did so, Kupcho became a Rolex First-Time winner, earning her first LPGA Tour and major victory at The Chevron Championship after defeating Jessica Korda by two. Since then, she hasn’t had much to write home about this season. But, after an opening 63, Kupcho is ready to flip the script in Belmont, Mich.
“There is a lot of golf so anything can happen,” she said. “You see that week in and week out. Girls go out and shoot really low and then they shoot even par the next day so there is a lot of golf and we'll see what happens.”
LPGA Tour mom Gerina Mendoza sits in solo second after firing an 8-under 64, highlighted by 7 birdies and an eagle. It’s just the second 64 of Mendoza’s career and her lowest recorded score since she shot 63 in 2017 at the Dana Open presented by Marathon. She’s missed four cuts in eight starts this season but does have one top-10 finish, a tie for sixth at the LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei. While it’s been rocky the past few years for Mendoza, as her priorities have changed since becoming a mother, she’s still a fierce competitor and you can be sure this round tasted especially sweet for the 37-year-old.
“I haven't really been posting many numbers as of late so it really gave me a big confidence boost and I kind of felt like my old self, just kind of plunking away and not thinking about the number or one more or calculating,” said Mendoza. “I just really stayed present in every shot. I know it's very cliche to say, but it's really what you have to do. Kind of just keep your head down. Had a great group. Jan and Lang, they're always fun to play with, so definitely lightened the day.”
A trio of players sit in a tie for third at -7, including major champions Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson as well as LPGA Tour winner Madelene Sagstrom. For Thompson, Blythefield Country Club is a course that really suits her game – she’s had one win and four additional top-10s in this event – and after an opening 65, she’s primed once again for another solid week in Belmont, Mich.
“Coming into today I knew I've been hitting it well and I've been putting in the work, so just coming out here and believing in myself and just staying in the moment, in the present,” said Thompson, who went bogey-free on Thursday. “Had a little bit of a birdie streak. There are some reachable par-5s out there, so definitely have to take advantage of it. You still have to hit the shots, so it was a matter of just doing my routine and committing.”
Stanford alum and Epson Tour winner Andrea Lee sits alone in solo sixth at -6. There are eight players in a tie for seventh at -5, including defending champion and Rolex Rankings No. 2 Nelly Korda as well as U.S. Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis. A total of 88 players posted -1 or better.